Negura Bunget Discusses Forthcoming Trilogy and First U.S. Tour
For the first time in its 17-year existence, Negura Bunget (translated as “Dark Foggy Forest) showcased its disparate mix of Romanian folk music and atmospheric black metal to an American audience. Hearing these songs on home speakers was simply not the same as witnessing the band live. One can’t fully comprehend the band’s primordial forests and grim folklore without seeing the group live. For many, this was the closest they’ll ever get to sift the earth of the Carpathian Mountains through their fingers.
Before Negura Bunget and its strictly-folk project, Din Brad took the stage in San Antonio; Metal Underground.com spoke with drummer and founder, Negru. We discussed the group’s restructuring, their first visit to the U.S., the making of recent recordings and new material on the horizon. He also explained the superstitions still practiced by some in his country and his country’s greatest celebrity, Dracula.
Darren Cowan (Rex_84): Is this your first tour in the United States?
Cowan: How is it going?
Negru: It has been pretty cool. We have done almost a month. We go until the end of the month. May 30th is the last week.
Cowan: Have you done any sight seeing?
Negru: Yes, we went to the Grand Canyon. We went to the Sequoia trees in California and the Rocky Mountains in Canada. Of course, you have to keep in mind we had a tight schedule, but whenever it was possible, we tried to get outside and see some of the things that were worth seeing. There are quite a few nice places.
Cowan: Negura Bunget has been around since 1995, but this is your first North American tour. Why did it take so long for your band to make it over here?
Negru: It was not easy being from Eastern Europe. Taking care of a Visa and all the arrangements for the U.S. is quite a nightmare. That was what kept us until now.
Cowan: Let’s get updated with what’s going on in the Negura Bunget camp. There was a split in your band in 2009. What happened?
Negru: Back then, we had three official members in the band and we had an extended lineup. Two (Hupogrammos and Sol Faur) of those three left the band, and I continued playing with some of the guys who had been playing in the band. We’ve got a new lineup with six members.
Cowan: Why was there a split. Was there a difference in the kind of music you wanted to make?
Negru: It wasn’t so much musical differences. It was personal. We worked together for more than ten years. Sometimes it was not easy. There was a lot of stuff that accumulated over time and we just had to do that (Negru laughs awkwardly).
Cowan: Last year, Negura Bunget released a live DVD “Focul Viu.” Was this your last release with this lineup?
Negru:Yep. We actually recorded the DVD in 2008, so we had been working on the DVD already. Then, we released it later, after the split. It just so happened it was the last material we released with the old lineup.
Cowan: So it just worked out that way?
Negru: Yes, it was not planned that way.
Cowan: Negura Bunget also released the “Poarta de dincolo” EP last year. Can you give our readers some details about this release?
Negru: We released the “Poarta de dincolo” last year and the “Vîrstele Pamîntului” in 2010. Those were the first releases containing the new lineup.
Cowan: Has playing with these new members changed your style?
Negru: I wouldn’t say we’ve changed our style much. We try to make every album different than the one before it. We try to bring in new elements and styles all the time. That’s what we always do. We just kept that thing. Hopefully, we will experiment even more in the future. I would say we have kept the same approach, musically and ideologically.
Cowan: Have you been moving away from black metal and more into folk music with the last couple albums?
Negru: I wouldn’t say that because things start happening when we’re working on a new album that just happen. We don’t say, “I’ll do the next album with more folk or more black metal. It just works out a certain way. The “Vîrstele Pamîntului” album may have more folk, but I can’t say it will be the same in the future. It might be completely different. Actually, I’ll say it will be because we’re already working on a new album. We have some material and it’s quite different. It’s still a bit early, but we are working on a trilogy, so it will be three albums. All three albums will be musical and visual. It will be an album with a DVD. It will be a movie-like thing, but not with characters and dialogue. It’s just visuals.
Cowan: Have you used visuals on stage?
Negru: Yes, but this one is a bit more than just visuals. There will be conceptual imagery. You can look at it and still get an idea about what we tried to do, so it will be almost like a movie.
Cowan: What concept are you creating? Can you give us a general outline about the story?
Negru: It’s a Transylvania trilogy, so it delves into Transylvania, but in a more personal vision. Because we’re from Transylvania, we’re always asked so many questions about living there, so we thought we should present a vision, so everyone can see for their selves. It will be three albums. The first one will deal more with natural landscapes. The second one will concentrate more on the human side like tradition, habits and stuff like that. The third one will be more on the spiritual side. All together it will offer a complete vision on what we’re about. It will be both musical and visual, so it will be quite in-depth. It’s a lot of work (laughs), but we enjoy doing big things.
Cowan: Your members play interesting instruments. Will you have many instruments on stage tonight?
Negru: Yes, we have quite a few instruments. We couldn’t bring all the stuff that we normally use because we have to fly here. We tried to bring as much as possible. You will see.
Cowan: That’s what I was wondering because one of the videos I watched showed your singer using this long instrument that sounded like a bugle.
Negru: It’s a type of horn called bucium. We didn’t bring that (laughs). It’s over two meters long (6.5 feet). But we did bring flutes, panpipes and a block of wood that we got on the plane. Everybody was looking at us strangely. It doesn’t look like an instrument; it looks like a big block of wood. It’s a ceremonial instrument.
Cowan: How did the group learn how to play those instruments. Did you grow up around these instruments?
Negru: We were familiar with some of the instruments. When we’re working on something, we have an idea, and then try to find the proper instrument. Even if we don’t know how to play a certain instrument, when we have an idea, we figure it out. Then, we take it from there. We just teach ourselves how to do it.
Cowan: Are you using Din Brad as an outlet for the folk side of your music?
Negru: Yes. Negura is more about black metal. The folk instruments are small ideas that we try to put into black metal. Din Brad is quite different. It’s pure folk. It’s our vision of Romanian folk. Romanian folk music is not like Din Brad. We use small parts of Romanian folklore.
Cowan: Speaking of folklore, Mayhem wrote a song called “Funeral Fog.” Dead said the lyrics were about a mysterious fog that crept over the mountains of Carpathia. During this time, creatures would snatch people from the fog. Are you familiar with that myth?
Negru: Yes, but a bit different. There are a lot of legends on such things in Romania. Some are still practicing today. They believe certain people come back from the dead to haunt the living world. There are all kinds of ceremonies so one can avoid such things. If they believe a person has died and might have something, they will do stuff to the body to make sure the person doesn’t’ return like burning the heart or driving a stake through the heart. They put metal coins and different kinds of things on the body. If you carry the tradition the right way, then things will work out well. If something goes wrong, then there is a chance that something bad will happen. To avoid that, they try to do the right ceremonials. Some of these things are still done today.
Cowan: I used to known a guy from Transylvania who lived in my hometown in Michigan. I used to engage him in conversation about Dracula. The last time I did this, he became upset and said something about Americans always wanting to talk about Dracula. Do you think our people are focusing on something from Hollywood and overlooking the beauty of your countryside and other parts of your history?
Negru: Dracula is based on many things. Vlad Tepes was the king of Wallachia. Back in those times there were three kingdoms: Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia. Even though Dracula was born in Transylvania, he ruled another country. He did a lot of strange things. He was not that kind of Dracula. He was doing trade with German/Hungarians (Austro-Hungarian Empire). He put a lot of restrictions and taxes, so they were upset with him. They started spreading legends about how cruel he was. He did a lot of strange, cruel things. He liked to impale people.
Cowan: Did he really dip his bread in the blood of people he impaled?
Negru: He impaled people onto pikes over 4 meters long. It would take two days, but their bodies would slide down the pole. They were alive during this process. He would have dinner with dignitaries from other countries surrounded by dead bodies. That was more of a psychological tactic. These were all scare tactics. People started to believe that he had unnatural powers. They were afraid of him, so it worked! It was this kind of reality combined with something related to vampires—things that were and are still practiced in this area—that created the myth of Dracula.
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